Bereavement Leave in the UK: How to Ask for Time Off for a Funeral

What is bereavement leave?

When you need time off work due to a loved one passing away you should be granted bereavement leave (also known as compassionate leave). Bereavement leave can be paid or unpaid and this is at the employer’s discretion. 

How much bereavement leave is an employee entitled to in the UK?

There is no set number of days’ bereavement leave that an employee is entitled to in the UK — it is up to the employer and will be detailed in the employee’s contract. Usually, bereavement leave will be about three to five days.

What is considered immediate family for bereavement leave?

Family bereavement is the most common reason for an employee to be granted bereavement leave. ‘Immediate family’ usually refers to: 

  • Your children
  • Your spouse or civil partner
  • Your parents
  • Your siblings

Some employers will also recognise grandparents and grandchildren as close family as well as the parents of your spouse.

However, it is an area which is far from defined, due to the varying nature of human relationships. Some employers will allow you to take bereavement leave if you are grieving the loss of a close friend or extended family.

How to ask for bereavement leave 

Tell your employer what has happened as soon as you can

Try to ask for time off as soon as you can as this will allow you the space to grieve, plan funeral arrangements or the interment of ashes. It also allows your employer to manage the workflow with minimal disruption. 

If your loved one has been ill for some time, you may have confided in your employer and had time off to care for a family member, so your employer may have already considered bereavement leave as a request that might follow. If the loss of a loved one is sudden, then a brief conversation with your employer to let them know before you submit the bereavement leave request would be expected.

Read through your bereavement leave policy

Your employees’ handbook will usually detail the company bereavement leave policy — how long the leave lasts and whether or not it is paid. Sometimes whether or not you work full-time or part-time might be a factor. 

If you do not have a company handbook, request a meeting with your manager or HR personnel to ask what the policies are and ask for a signed copy of them so that you have something to refer to and can avoid any confusion.

Decide how much time off you need

When requesting time off and deciding how many days’ leave to ask for, make sure that you account for your mental health as well as financial and organisational factors. You may want to add holiday allowance on to your bereavement leave if you need more time. 

Put your request for bereavement leave in writing

After you have had a meeting with your HR department or line manager, put your request for bereavement leave in writing (usually an email is acceptable).

Ask HR or your manager to communicate with colleagues

It is likely that you will be feeling emotionally vulnerable so ask your HR department or your line manager to notify your colleagues so that you don’t have to answer the same questions numerous times as this could be overwhelming.